LAURINBURG — For some, the handful of Union soldiers battling nearly two dozen Confederate soldiers was not quite accurate.
But spectators said Saturday’s Civil War reenactment was both fun and educational.
“It is hard to find Union soldiers because everyone down here wants to play a Confederate,” said Lee Gaunt, chairman of the Scotland County Historic Properties Commission, the group that helped bring the event to Laurinburg.
The daylong reenactment — in its second year — was held on the grounds of the John Blue House and attended by more than 200 people. The free event featured on-the-hour artillery fire, infantry and artillery skirmishes, cavalry, youth enlistment, training and certification. Historians also shared stories from the war that took the lives of 620,000 soldiers, more than the combined toll of all other American conflicts until the War in Vietnam.
Beachum McDougald, a local historian, said the reenactment featured four “Yankees” against 20 confederates equipped with cannons, rifles and pistols.
“It goes against conventional wisdom,” McDougald said. “It should have been the other way around.”
For the attendees and participants who braved the cold overcast day, the reenactment was a chance to have an intimate encounter with the history of the Civil War. There were lectures on multiple topics of the war, a surgical tent to learn about the medicine of the era, and hands-on exhibits for youth.
For historians, the Civil War is the central event in America’s historical consciousness. While the Revolutionary War created the United States, the Civil War determined what kind of nation it would be.
“I love the history side of it — growing up I love looking into the history and finding out old facts,” said Johnathon Nunnery, a 22-year-old Confederate reennactor. Nunnery said he has been participating in faux Civil War battles since he was 14 years old
“It’s fun to see first hand what the Civil War was like,” said Nunnery’s younger brother, Steven, who was participating in his first reenactment on Saturday.
Although not as large as some of the more established reenactments up and down the East Coast, Laurinburg’s event gave people a chance to witness the battles and living conditions more intimately, according to Cory Hughes, Scotland County Tourism Development Authority director.
The surgical tent, which was put on by historian Jim Metts, explained the art of amputation, medicines used and the types of bullets the Union and Confederate forces used.
The bullets used would normally shatter bone if they struck limbs, according to Metts, who’s great grandfather fought in the war. Because of the lack of medicine during the Civil War era, amputation was the only way to save soldiers with shattered bone from infection, which would lead to death. The procedure was conducted with saw, similar to ones we use today for cutting through wood and doctors could take a limb off in two minutes, Metts said.
After the first year of the war, confederates ran out of ether and other pain killers for amputations, because of Union blockades, so the southern doctors started to use whiskey as a means to calm down wounded soldiers. during the Civil War, amputations saved soldiers lives 85 percent of the time and those who refused the procedure would die from infection 90 percent of the time, Metts said.
Just as last year’s reenactment, the cannon fire was a crowd favorite. This year, the event stepped it up a notch by bringing an additional cannon to create twice the amount of noise and smoke, which was well received by spectators.
“They have been shooting the cannons off on the hour and that has been pretty impressive.,” Gaunt said.
One of the day’s most popular lectures was given by Keith Jones, a historian from Burlington. He gave a interesting talk on military encounters between Confederate General Joseph Wheeler and Union General Judson Kilpatrick during Sherman’s march from Savannah to Durham. This included the infamous “Battle of the Shirtale Skedaddle,” which is more commonly known as the “Battle of Monroe Crossroads” that took place near Raeford.
According to Jones, Kilpatrick was caught in his underwear with a women of questionable repute during an early morning raid of his camp by the confederates. When one of General Wheeler’s troopers rode up to Kilpatrick and asked him where the general was, he pointed and exclaimed, “He went that-away!”
The Scotland County Historic Properties Commission hopes to make the Civil War reenactment an annual event.
Reach Nolan Gilmour a 910-506-3171